Most people, including myself earlier in my career make a big mistake: they keep an action list without setting priorities. It typically contains entries from top to bottom about calling people, filing documents, sending faxes, setting appointments. And at the end of the day, most of the actions have been done and people feel good about it. Nothing wrong with keeping track of activities and progress but if this is done outside the scope of your personal goals, you will not be able to achieve the successes over time.
What’s wrong here?
Any action list without proper priorities or categories may give you a temporary ‘kick’ when crossing off items, but it will not help you to reach your goals effectively. The ‘mixed-bag’ of activities very quickly leads to a behavior pattern that either focuses on the easy tasks or on tasks that are just urgent but not necessarily important.
Lifestyle Entrepreneurs are very careful about their time. They know that consistently working on their goals is the most important task to do, even if it means postponing a visit to a friend. They will never allow urgent tasks to take control over their day. Instead, they manage the amount of urgent tasks popping up by proper advance planning.
Read on for a very practical approach to get back on track.
Four Activity Levels Explained
Structure your activities into 4 different categories, I call them zones.
A – The Planning Zone
Everything that is very important but not so urgent.
These are the things that if you do them will contribute in the longer run to reaching your objectives.
For example, working regularly on your long term strategy will help you generate future income. Meditation and visualization of goals are also activities that belong here.
Successful people spend most of their time here, some people even more than 80%.
B – The Production Zone
Everything that is very important and very urgent.
Typically, these are the activities you are doing to generate income with your business.
Example: getting back to a prospect who has responded positively to your website or ad.
Make sure that part of your daily activities should always be in this area as this is usually the place where the money is generated.
If you are already fully set up and trained up, spend at least 40-60% of your time here.
C – The Waste Zone
Everything that is not important and not urgent.
Mainly the fun stuff and the social chatter.
Let’s be honest: watching the news on the Internet is not helping your business in any way unless you are somehow related to it. A party is nice but the impact on your business results is fairly minimal.
Interestingly enough, this is where most people who are not getting any results spend most of their time… Their action lists are full of activities in this area.
So be careful and spend only time here if you really can afford it. I suggest maximum 10% of your time.
D – The Losing Zone
Everything that is not important but very urgent.
Crisis stuff causing stress and discomfort.
Your tax lawyer calls you because you have neglected administration for a while. Nothing to do with your business but extremely urgent right now, you have to sacrifice time for this.
Not many people know this but you can greatly minimize the waste here if you spend proper time in A – the planning zone.
Ideally you should spend 0% of your time here.
How To Handle Boring Stuff?
From now on, time-box it! I used to be the worst person in the world taking care of expenses claims, administration, taxes and so on. I always felt that it sort of distracted me from my main goals.
Too bad. We all have to do the boring stuff.
This works fantastic for me right now: Block out a limited time, let’s say 1 hour per day during which you only execute the boring stuff that you have to do anyway. After that, treat yourself, relax with your favorite drink and feel accomplished because you deserve it.
This way, you avoid the ‘negative vibes’ of boring tasks and are ready to move ahead with the more exciting things again.